By Adele Chapline Smith, OSV News
(OSV News) — Against the backdrop of a fantasy realm inspired by feudal Japan, gamers take on the persona of a peacemaker in “Wild Hearts” (Electronic Arts). Though there’s a good deal of bloodless violence for them to quell, it’s balanced by underlying messages about the importance of stewarding creation and helping neighbors, making this a suitable choice for teens as well as grown-ups.
Technically, the building mechanics of the new title recall those of “Fortnite” (Epic Games) while its themes are reminiscent of Capcom’s “Monster Hunter.” The combination makes for an exciting reinvigoration of the action role-playing genre.
Players assume the guise of a nameless hunter in the nation of Azuma, where once-peaceful wild creatures classified as “Kemono” have become enraged and are rampaging across the countryside. Unlike earthly animals, these beasts incorporate plant life as well and are thus covered in moss, flowers and other vegetation.
The controlled character shoulders the burden of restoring tranquility to nature and the local inhabitants.
Hunters can play solo with a robotic companion or team up with two other people in online play. The fighting is energetic but free of gore and involves the use of mostly melee weapons such as knives or mauls, though there are some ranged weapons included in the repertoire as well.
Using a resource called “thread” — obtained during combat — gamers build constructs called “Karakuri” that can assist them in battle. These range from such simple items as a crate to climb on to more complex creations like a giant mallet that stuns the enemy. Karakuri can suddenly shift the player’s fortunes from certain death to swift victory.
The employment of Karakuri subtly but clearly reinforces the value of teamwork. A construct that serves as a bridge over a river, for instance, may help other characters desperate to escape to the other side.
The inclusion of the flora-infused Kemono, moreover, invites gamers to reflect on the relationship between human beings and the natural world. The responsible outlook thus encouraged is fully in accord with Catholic teaching.
With its rich environment, innovative design details and sound ethical stance, “Wild Hearts” is appealing on several levels and appropriate for a wide audience. They’ll likely find Azuma a happy hunting ground.
Playable on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series and Windows.
The game contains stylized combat violence. The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is T — Teen.
Adele Chapline Smith reviews videogames for OSV News.